Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ring "The Empire Of Necromancers" [魔術師の帝国] [Majutsushi No Teikoku] 2006 (recorded in 1975) Japan Prog Rock


Ring  "The Empire Of Necromancers"  [魔術師の帝国] [Majutsushi No Teikoku] 2006 (recorded in 1975) Japan Prog Rock
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Ring were a Japanese progressive rock band that recorded in the 1970’s, though I’m unclear as to whether an album was ever released. The CD consists of 5 tracks recorded in 1975, plus 2 bonus tracks recorded some years later by keyboardist Takashi Kokubo, who interestingly was the drummer and singer at the time of the 1975 Ring lineup. 

Prog fans who like to leave no stone unturned as regards 70’s bands will likely enjoy this album. The band were a guitar/bass/drums/keyboards/vocals quartet, and draw heavily on classical influences, while at the same time being a rock band in the way Focus was. The 11 minute opening track - “Prologue” - is very mellow and dreamy throughout much of the track, though Ring do rock out a bit in the last several minutes. There are some vocals though it’s mostly instrumental and Ring do a respectable job with both keyboard and guitar melodies. I dig the bluesy jam at the end of the track and the accompanying synthesizer embellishments. “The White Sybil” is next and again starts off very dreamily, but soon launches into a fiery prog-jazz jam that demonstrates some decent instrumental chops. Alas, with the exception of a brief high energy segment on “Magic Lady”, that’s the only time Ring really cut loose. Which is too bad because there’s clearly a hard rock band hiding somewhere inside these guys. The performance is mostly laid back, though still enjoyable and probably only of real interest to diehard fans of obscure 70’s progressive bands. 

In a somewhat different realm is the keyboard dominated music on the Takashi Kokubo bonus tracks. “The Star of Sorrow” is a very dark and haunting atmospheric piece. And “In Memory Of Charnades The Pan” starts off as a smoking ELP influenced track that would actually fit nicely on an Ars Nova album. But about halfway through the 11+ minute track Kokubo goes into deep space for a bit, before transitioning to a very Pink Floyd-esque segment reminiscent of Wish You Were Here, before winding things down by returning to the ELP styled bit that opened the track. Highly derivative, but if these descriptions interest you then you’re sure to dig it…Aural Innovations …..~


Ring are a four piece outfit from Japan featuring Yukitoshi Morishige on keyboards, Masata Kondo on guitars, Takashi Kokubo on drums and vocals while Hiroshi Hamada fills in with the basics. I am always keen to discover any new Japanese band especially if they can approach the unique qualities of Kenso, Gerard or Ain Soph but quite often the hunt is fraught with disappointment more often than pleasure. 

While there is nothing particularly wrong with Ring’s musical abilities, their songs simply fail to deliver anything really convincing or different. Whether it’s the limp attempt to meld King Crimson influences with Pink Floydian airy fairy floaty stuff and then top that off with some even more lame “Peter Gunn” guitar and organ sections all within the one song, it becomes a bit laughable. Equally well, I often find that lyrics sung in Japanese just sound so daggy and unfortunately, Ring are no exception. 

The track, “The White Sybil” is a bit of a letdown as the morose sounding themes and melancholy playing drag on for too long before the song segues into a more jazzy and extroverted section with speedy guitar fills, keyboard excursions and crisp drumming from Takashi. One of the strongest tracks is probably “Magic Lady” but it is by no means a classic as the guitar sounds badly buried somewhere within the left hemisphere of your brain. The song also suffers from the band simply failing to take proper advantage of the assortment of instruments at their disposal. They are just so severely underused. It is not until the final bonus tracks featuring some ripping keyboards that you become remotely aware that the band does possess some musical ability of importance. 

While each song has some merit, the overall appeal is lost about mid way as the band doesn’t overstretch either their own or your imagination. The softer sections are just way too soft with little really emotive pieces to leave you inspired while their fierier sections are simply luke-warm at best. It’s not that this bands music is offensive or particularly unpleasant; it’s more a case of the song writing failing to even reach the Plimsoll line. A preliminary audition before parting with the cash might be the best advice here……..~

The year this live album was recorded, 1975, is an early time for Japanese progressive rock, which would make Ring one of the country’s first groups in that vein. The project remained short-lived and, judging from The Empire of Necromancers, it is understandable. The music here is severely derivative, lacking any personal traits. Listening to the five-movement title piece feels like running down a list of half-digested influences. For instance, “Prologue” has a deliberate King Crimson-esque riff appearing at the seven-minute mark (almost a variation on “Pictures of a City”), while “The White Sybil” begins with an unmistakable pastiche of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Take a Pebble.” And the list goes on. Still, there are a number of good moments throughout the suite, mostly in instrumental passages, as Takashi Kokubo’s vocals (in Japanese) are mediocre at best. But “Prologue” and “Magic Lady” feature good guitar solos and strong group playing. In short, The Empire of Necromancers is a very average ‘70s Japanese prog rock record that will be of interest to collectors only. Or it would be if Musea/Poseidon had not added two bonus tracks to the 2006 reissue that are worth the price of admission. Both were recorded by Kokubo in 1977-1978 (with drums added in February 2006). Ring’s ex-singer and drummer is here featured on synthesizers, along with keyboardist Kayo Matsumoto and guitarist Haruhiko Tsuda. The two entirely instrumental tracks are much more personal than Ring’s material. There are similarities with Jean Michel Jarre’s early works (although the music is less cold) and Rick Wakeman’s non-orchestral compositions. “In Memory of Charnades the Pan” delivers the best 12 minutes of the whole album, a powerful synth-prog piece with all the bells and whistles necessary to capture the attention…. by François Couture….allmusic….~

“The Empire Of Necromancers” is a five-piece rock opera composed by multi-instrumentalist Takashi Kokubo at some point in the mid-seventies, and then performed in 1975 as part of a series of concerts with the Ring band. One of these performances is completely on the present Silberling. Older releases of the material are not known to me and thus the empire of necromancers for Prog history-minded listeners and collectors per se should be interesting, these are the first early signs of a prog-rock scene in Japan, whose heyday only ten years later was. 

For musically interesting I hold this early work Japanese prog, however, in the fewest places. Irritating the beginning; after a floyd’s Waber intro, a Gilmour Pleng pleng guitar joins in, the drums play a brisk rhythm, it sounds a bit like Camel , then suddenly silence - before the same intro starts all over again. I was afraid that the record would have scratches, but no, this is obviously wanted … even a third time. At the very beginning, blurring any approach of momentum and momentum is truly daring; the rest of the prologue then dies in my ears. 

In short, even with the remaining pieces happens to me too little. Slightly psychedelic organs, shallow melodies, thin, elegiacly floating vocals. The music is always very close to the aforementioned Pink Floyd , otherwise somewhere in the intersection of all the better known English Sympho greats of the seventies, enriched with a not insignificant amount of Valium. Who likes to be drizzled by dreamy, gentle sounds, will certainly not be disappointed here; I just miss the steam. 

As a bonus, there are two more pieces that Kokubo recorded with some support in his Synthesizers Studio [sic!] In the late '70s [77/78 for chroniclers], with the programmed drums not added until February 2006. In 'The Star Of Sorrow’ a kind of tension is slowly and steadily created - this is not really part of Kokuba’s talents. But I like the sequel 'In Memory Of Charnada’s The Pan’. Smart, groovy, with verve - why not the same? Even if there is a passage of yawning nothingness in between, this is definitely more exciting and original than the rest of the album. 

Its potential buyers should, as mentioned, be in the orbit of nostalgic, japophile and psychedelic friends from the start. Well, who likes to indulge … I still think the album is dispensable….By: Marcus Kästner….babyblaue prog…..~

Every country has its own musical characteristics. With Prog from Japan inevitably come to a squeaky keyboards, high yodelling and blast bombast to mind. But there are also the exceptions to the rule. Especially in the mid-70s was the identity of the Japanese bands by no means so stereotyped pronounced. Of the bands that were active at the time, Shingetsu was evidently inspired by Genesis, Bi Kyo Ran was completely on the King Crimson Trip, while the ring featured here did not reveal any Japanese origins, but also switched to the British Isle. 

“The empire of necromancers” is symphonic progressive rock with a very light jazz rock note from the 70s in pure culture. The recordings are from a live performance of the band at the University of Electro-Communications, with any audience reactions - if any - were completely hidden. The classical guitar, bass, drums and keyboards were the inspiration for the early King Crimson, as well as other British bands. However, King Crimson is far less the complex material, but rather the lyrical passages that one finds especially on their debut. But ring give in the extensive solo passages every now and then a little more gas, a slightly jazz-rocky undertone ensures the right spice. 

Despite the carefully used vocals in the local language, this fits very well with the music and is also located in the pitch in “normal” European listening habits. Although occasionally some keyboard and synthesizer passages seem a little too depressing, the band sometimes acts too stereotyped, but the overall result is really appealing overall, convinces with its compositional diversity and breathes above all a lot of awesome 70s flair. 

Since the concept work “The empire of necromancers” is just over half an hour long, you get as a bonus material packed by keyboardist Takashi Kokubo, which is already unmasking more than coming from Japan. But since the recordings are from 1978, the bombastic overkill is still limited. An interesting journey into the past….By: Kristian Selm……babyblaue prog….~


Takashi Kokubo - drums; vocals; synthesizers 
Yukitoshi Morishige - keyboards 
Masato Kondo - guitar 
Hiroshi Hamada - bass 
Takashi Kokubo - drums; vocals; synthesizers 
Yukitoshi Morishige - keyboards 
Masato Kondo - guitar 
Hiroshi Hamada - bass 


Track 

1. Prologue 
2. The White Sybil 
3. Piano Solo 
4. The Desolation Of Soom 
5. Magic Lady 
6. The Star Of Sorrow 
7. The Memory of Charnades The Pan 

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